On Tuesday 13 August, Lonely Planet unveiled their first ultimate Ultimate UK Travelist, revealing the top 500 unmissable attractions across Britain, Northern Ireland and the Channel Islands.
Compiling the most exciting, unique and memorable experiences, the list reveals all that is great about Britain – with the world-renowned Edinburgh Festival topping the list!
With icons like the British Museum in London, Stonehenge in south-west England, and the Giant’s Causeway in Northern Ireland all featuring in the Top 10 Experiences, the country’s icons are well and truly represented. But the list is also jam-packed with lesser-known but no less impressive highlights – from hobnobbing with royalty in Glamis Castle’s rose-tinted turrets to wild swimming in Durdle Door.
Compiled from the Lonely Planet roundup, we’ve selected 21 of the most unusual, surprising and unforgettable activities, sights and landmarks – for a truly unmissable British experience.
Yorkshire Dales Adventure, Yorkshire (number 18)
Coming in at number 18 on the Lonely Planet list, the Yorkshire Dales are a fairy-tale landscape of heather moorland and rolling green valleys. Home to some of Britain’s finest karst limestone scenery, the Dales also offer some of the country’s best hiking and cycling routes. And with hidden highlights including Forbidden Corner - a labyrinthine walled garden, and Hardraw Force - England’s highest unbroken waterfall, to explore, it’s the ideal spot for travellers looking to discover the lesser-known side of Yorkshire.
Wild Swimming at Durdle Door, Dorset (number 29)
Located in the turquoise waters of the Jurassic Coast World Heritage Site, the ancient Durdle Door archway is one of Britain’s most unforgettable destinations for wild swimming. Soak up the sunshine on the pristine golden sands before taking the plunge and swimming beneath the monumental limestone archway, which was carved by the waves over centuries. Ranking at number 29, Durdle Door is an experience that testifies to the power of nature and the forces that shaped one of Britain’s most spectacular coastlines.
Hike the South West Coast Path, South-West England (number 37)
Combining the highlights of the Devon, Cornish, Somerset and Dorset coastlines, the South West Coast Path is 628 miles of staggering British beauty. Requiring around six weeks to complete in full, the path takes in sunlit beaches, picturesque fishing villages and major highlights including Tintagel Castle, the birthplace of King Arthur. With terrain ranging from easy to challenging, there’s something for every walking enthusiast looking to explore the delights of the south west.
Wild camping on Dartmoor, Devon (number 56)
Wild ponies, mist-covered moors and crystal-clear rivers await on a wild camping trip to Dartmoor. Get back to nature and sleep under the stars on a camping experience that reveals the rugged beauty of one of England’s largest open moorlands, all while discovering its staggering history at landmarks including Spinster’s Rock, which dates back to 4,000BC.
Island hop Scotland’s Western Seaboard, Scotland (number 58)
From exploring the only island country park in Britain to sipping the rich peaty whisky produced by Bowmore, the oldest distillery in Scotland, island hopping across the western seaboard reveals Scotland’s traditions and landscapes in all their glory. Discover Duart Castle, home of the Clan Maclean, and Iona Abbey, the ancient burial site of Scottish Kings, and spot magnificent red deer on the island of Jura. From wildlife to whisky, Scotland’s western islands have it all.
Deer Spotting Safari, Exmoor (number 61)
Get up-close-and-personal with Britain’s native wildlife on a deer spotting safari in Exmoor National Park. A former royal forest, the park is home to around 3,000 red deer – the largest wild land animals in England! Spot knobbly-kneed calves in spring and summer or see majestic stags battle it out in the search for a mate under a canopy of autumn leaves. With Exmoor ponies and a staggering array of flora and fauna to discover, it’s no surprise this experience ranks at an impressive number 61 on the list.
Coast to Coast Path, Northern England (number 76)
One of Britain’s most popular routes for walkers, the Coast to Coast Path comes in at number 76. Designed by renowned author and fellwanderer Alfred Wainwright, the path encompasses 190 miles of northern England’s most impressive landscapes. Covering three of our finest National Parks - the Lake District, the Yorkshire Dales and the North York Moors – and roaming across terrain that ranges from flower strewn dales to mountainous peaks, the path is perfect for cyclists and walkers looking to discover Britain in all its diverse glory.
Banksy Trail, Bristol (number 85)
Follow the trail of Banksy, one of Britain’s best known street artists in his birthplace, Bristol! One of the country’s lesser-known urban delights, the city is awash with quirky culture, cool boutiques and an eclectic dining scene, in addition to a wide array of impressive street art. With a range of street arts tours on offer, visitors will discover the impact that Banksy has had on pop culture and the art scene, and can even try their hand at creating their own graffiti.
Dungeness Train, Kent (number 110)
Jump aboard the Romney, Hythe & Dymchurch Railway steam train and step back in time on a journey to Dungeness. Best known for the historic battle of 1652, Dungeness is now classified as Britain’s only desert. Home to a fascinating array of plant, bird and sea life, this Site of Special Scientific Interest is well worth discovering. See the traditional cottages of local fishermen and find out more about their lives, before climbing the historic lighthouse for incredible views of the English Channel towards France.
Victorian Tunnel Tour, Newcastle (number 167)
Step back in time on a tour of Newcastle’s secret Victoria Tunnel. Originally constructed in 1842 to transport coal below the city streets, the tunnel was used as an air raid shelter during World War II and is rich in history. Experience an air raid re-enactment and walk beneath the city’s major landmarks, including Hadrian’s Wall, before hearing tales of the resident ghost and the city’s Victorian past.
Spot Puffins and Seals on Rathlin Island, Northern Ireland (number 194)
Wildlife lovers and photography enthusiasts should make a beeline for the rugged cliffs of Rathlin Island. Managed in part by the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds, the island is particularly appealing during the birds’ nesting season. Head to the West Light Viewpoint to spot baby puffins and their parents cavorting through the undergrowth in spring and summer, see native species including kittiwakes and guillemots, and make sure to look out for basking seals, porpoises and even dolphins!
Channel Your Inner Braveheart at Stirling Castle, Scotland (number 217)
Trace the footsteps of Scottish hero William Wallace and discover his true history on a visit to Stirling Castle, the setting of the 1995 epic Braveheart. Scale the 246 steps to the William Wallace Monument and enjoy staggering views of the surrounding countryside. Explore the Royal Palace, the Great Hall and Queen Anne Gardens, hear tales of legendary combats including the Battle of Bannockburn, and learn the story of King Robert the Bruce – a Scottish National Hero.
Ride Some of Wales’ Wildest Waves Along Hell’s Mouth Beach, Wales (number 232)
Surfing enthusiasts can ride some of Britain’s best waves at Hell’s Mouth Beach in Gwynedd. Home to the Wakeboard Festival in July, the beach offers four miles of sandy shores, perfect azure water and even the chance to spot harbour porpoises and bottlenose dolphins. With a current that’s gentle enough for swimmers looking to relax in the waves, but strong enough to guarantee some perfect waves, the beach is one of the area’s best kept secrets for lovers of water sports.
Branch Out at the National Botanic Garden of Wales, South Wales (number 261)
Featuring the world’s largest single-span glasshouse, a national nature reserve, and a variety of beautiful and innovative themed gardens, the National Botanic Garden of Wales has something for every green-fingered enthusiast. Discover the medicinal secrets of local herbs at the Apothecary’s Garden, meet native species at the British Bird of Prey Centre, or enjoy an ever-changing range of flora-themed events throughout the year.
World Conker Champs, Northamptonshire (number 317)
We Brits love a quirky festival, and at number 317 the World Conker Championships fits the bill perfectly! Played using the seeds of horse chestnut trees, the championship sees competitors smash their way to victory in the picturesque Northamptonshire village of Southwick. Hosted by the Ashton Conker Club, the competition has taken place since 1965 and involves players using a conker, threaded with a piece of string, to break their opponent’s conker. Competitors take it in turns to strike their opponent’s piece, with the winner owning the conker that does not break.
Whizz Through the Zip World Slate Caverns in Blaneu Ffestiniog, Wales (number 327)
Zip World, near the historic mining town of Blaenau Ffestiniog, offer guests the chance to climb through a unique underground course in a disused slate mine or zip down Europe’s largest zip wire! Surrounded by stunning Welsh scenery, it’s an unbeatable place to bounce and slide through a huge underground adventure, for an action-packed experience to remember.
Margate Shell Grotto, Margate (number 339)
An ancient temple, a pagan place of worship, or even the residence of a cult – nearly 200 years after it was discovered, the debate still rages as to the origins of the Margate Shell Grotto! Nicknamed Shellhenge and decorated with an incredible 4.6 million shells, the grotto is a unique work of art that has to be seen to be believed. Join the debate and wander along 70ft of chalk tunnels to discover the 2,000sq foot mosaic, which features oysters, ancient gods and even the tree of life among its swirling, intricate patterns.
Learn to Cook at River Cottage, Devon (number 392)
Founded by British celebrity chef, Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall, the chance to cook at the renowned River Cottage comes in as a foodie favourite at number 392. With a wide range of courses including gluten-free Christmas cooking, easy cheese making and meat curing and smoking, visitors will have the chance to discover the secrets of the acclaimed TV series, savour local produce and learn how to create truly scrumptious British recipes.
Star Spot on Lundy Island, South-West England (number 452)
A designated Dark Sky Discovery Site, Lundy Island has no street lighting or electricity after midnight, making it a stargazing spot that’s out of this world! At night, budding astronomers can expect to spot the Milky Way, distant galaxies and meteor showers, while its incredibly diverse flora and fauna, including basking sharks, dolphins and puffins, make it a nature lover’s paradise.
Hobnob with Royalty in Glamis Castle’s Rose-Tinted Turrets, Scotland (number 468)
One of the lesser-known royal residences, this fairy-tale castle inspired Shakespeare’s Macbeth and was the childhood home to HRH The Queen Mother. Visitors can explore the birthplace of HRH Princess Margaret, discover the sprawling gardens and admire the rose-tinted turrets. Alternatively, take a guided tour and learn the secrets of the Earls of Strathmore and Kinghorne, who have resided here since 1372.
Learn to Churn at Wensleydale Creamery, Yorkshire (number 496)
The British love affair with all things cheese-related is long established. Now, visitors can get in on the act and learn to churn beautifully British cheese at Wensleydale Creamery, one of Yorkshire’s best known producers. With cheese and butter-making demonstrations held throughout the day, plus cookery demonstrations of popular local dishes including Wensleydale Chicken and Yorkshire Rarebit, the creamery is a tasty experience for food fans on a trip to Britain.